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Quantifying Emotion

850 Northwest 13th Avenue
Portland, OR 97209, USA (map)

Please arrive before 6:30 to be admitted to the building.



Translating human emotions into the language of neurons is one of the fundamental challenges in affective neuroscience and critical for understanding the neuronal basis of many mental illnesses. But we currently have no quantitative understanding of how emotions emerge from the activity of neural networks in the brain. Capturing the essence of emotions with computational methods might seem like an oxymoron given lay conceptions of emotions as irrational forces that inflexibly bias behavior away from rationality. However, it is increasingly clear that the neural circuits mediating emotion and decision making are highly intertwined. After decades of research suggesting the amygdala mainly contributes to emotion and simpler forms of associative learning, researchers are just beginning to explore the computational boundaries of amygdala function. The emerging perspective, which Dr. Costa will discuss, is that the computational goals of emotional circuits in the brain are much richer than simply identifying things as good or bad.

Dr. Vinny Costa is an assistant professor in Department of Behavioral Neuroscience and in the Division of Neuroscience of the with the Oregon National Primate Research Center. Dr. Costa's research is focused on using computational approaches from reinforcement learning and decision making to understand the function of the mesolimbic circuits in emotion, cognition, and disease. To do this he takes a multidisciplinary approach combining computational modeling of behavior, neurophysiology, neuroimaging, psychopharmacology, and chemogenetic methodologies in rhesus macaques and humans.